Sunday, August 14, 2016

We joined Romanian Tourists

On Saturday we didn't work. Instead we spent a tiring day as tourists. Adi, our guide in Bucharest, found a craft fair in the city of Alba julia. So we set out in the red van with Adi at the wheel on a bright sunny day. We drove northeast between mountains in a fertile plain in the direction we will take on Thursday when we head to Cluj. 

As we drove, Adi told us about his favorite Romanian ancestors. The Dacians were the indigenous tribal group that the Romans struggled to subdue. According to Adi they were mountain equestrian people, skilled at warfare.  They retreated to mountain strongholds, the remnants of which are still visible on some of the hilltops we passed. Although there are very few in Romania still related to these ancient folk, Adi is an admirer. His love of nature and independence makes him one of their spiritual descendants. When Trajan finally conquered the Dacians, he was proud enough to erect his famous column to prove it. 

Alba Julia's history is ancient. A defensive location as a high point in a wide plain, it has been important in every age, and all who have battled over Romania have claimed it. Ptolemy mentions it as a Dacian settlement. When the Romans came, they too built here. In the Middle Ages a Transylvanian bishop was located here and it owed allegiance to Hungary and later the Hapsburgs.  That is the reason for the 12 century Catholic Church.
 In the 20th century it was where the ceremony of Romanian unification took place on December 1, 1918. And that is the reason for the Orthodox Church dedicated to King Ferdinand and Queen Mary just a five minute walk away. 

We went to see the crafts. There were glass blowers, woodworkers, needle workers, leather workers and other crafts. Traditional clothing and modern toys gave us a place to spend a few leis and remember our families as we selected souvenirs.

We also sampled the ice cream. When we finished we decided that we could fit in a castle. I had explained to Adi that the age of castles was over before Europeans started building in America. So he pointed our van to Hunedoara and the Castel Corvino. 

We waited in line for a bit before Adi went to look for the price. Only one student had an ID, but Peter and I had licenses which certified us as "pensioners". Adi talked his way through the rest. Instead of 30 lei a head he got the group in for 40 lei ($10). As our "guide" his entrance was free. 

With that beginning we felt free to enjoy climbing towers and exploring chimneys.

The afternoon sun shone gently over the countryside.
A musician played an impressive long necked lute in one corner, and other tourists jostled us on the stairs. We had fun. 

As we headed to Lupeni we passed some truly amazing architecture. The Roma people are often poor beggars. We learned, however, that some are rich and love to outdo each other with fantastic embellishments on their enormous houses. Many are metalworkers who use their homes to show off. 

Dinner was a barbecue at Dana and Brandi's. We stopped in Petrosani, on what Brandi called "watermelon alley" for a ripe one. There must have been a thousand melons piled at a roadside stand. Adi and Peter got out and sampled the chosen fruit before buying it. It was our dessert after a tasty sausage barbecue on the deck at the Bates. Our need for sleep won over our desire to see the Perseid meteor shower. It had turned cold so we headed to our apartments and bed. 

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